Looking for concrete ways you can optimize your lifestyle so you become healthier, stronger and more capable? We’ve summarized our main lifestyle design tips below.
This is the “What?” of a foresighted lifestyle. Our fundamentals series answers the “Why?”. Our Mental shifts and Training Tips series answers the “How?”.
The 2-minutes version
If you only have 2 minutes:
- physical activity: move more every day and in more varied ways. Prioritize true Natural Movements (the Movnat method fits the bill) as well as walking or running depending on your current abilities. Any activity is better than no activity but avoid machines if you can (for fitness training: if you truly enjoy it, go for it, fun is good). If you have kids, move with and in front of them to role model.
- nutrition: minimize processed foods, sugars, most grains, industrially-raised animal products (meat, fish, eggs, dairy, etc.). Maximize fibers (so fruits and veggies). Maximize meals prepared at home from raw ingredients. Use fats from wild/pastured animals and from coconuts, olives and avocados.
As you can see, this isn’t much controversial these days and incidentally is in line with the current official guidelines on physical activity and healthy eating.
The most difficult part isn’t what to do but actually managing to do it.
The first step for that is to get extra clear on the behaviors you want to adopt or change. So we go into more specific steps and actions below to help you in that respect.
We usually define the interactions between our lifestyle and the health of our bodies into three main areas (physical stimuli, nutritional stimuli and environmental stimuli) so that’s how we group the lifestyle design tips below but keep in mind some could go in more than one area.
That list can be more daunting and isn’t even exhaustive. Keep in mind however that the human body is incredibly resilient and thrives on variability. Building good habits you can follow 80% of the time is the key: the remaining 20% won’t have much real impact.
Maximize the volume of physical activity you get each and every day
Our standard modern lifestyle is both a very busy one and one from which movement opportunities are systematically eliminated (we do love our comfort). Yet the WHO is recommending close to 1 hour of activity every day of the week for optimal health outcomes. We usually don’t achieve that. So step 1 is to get more, which is probably easier than you think: see our Mental Shifts series for tips on achieving that.
Maximize the variety of physical activity you get
The human body adapted to and requires a wide variety of physical activity to maintain a healthy state. Most of us need to diversify our physical activity. Movnat as a method embraces our evolutionary history and is generalist on purpose, so it’s an excellent foundation. On the positive side, many activities you do on a day to day basis, including all chores, are all physical stimuli that count in your total.
Make natural movements the foundation of your physical activity
Again, any activity is better than no activity, but some activities yield much better returns for your health than others. Movnat teaches you these. Add to it a focus on walking and running and you’ve covered all basis.
Fix your footwear
Most footwear isn’t adapted to the human body. Prioritize footwear that has the most flexible and thinnest sole, the widest toe box and zero drop between heel and toes. Spend as much time barefoot. High heels are cool but know the cost you incur wearing them and maybe keep them for special occasions. Flip-flops are best avoided. It might seem minor but modern footwear does have an outsized impact on your feet and in turn that impact goes up the chain to your knees, hips spine, etc.
Expose your kids to your own physical activity
Standard gyms are suboptimal for fitness training in many respects but this one is most often overlooked: your kids don’t get to see you exercise. Kids learn by imitation and they don’t get to learn this habit from you if they don’t see you exercise. That doesn’t mean you should bring them to the gym. On the contrary, you should take advantage of the time you already spend with them, including outside, to exercise.
Increase time spent on the ground
Western cultures have all sorts of negative bias against spending time on the floor. And yet, most of us can no longer sit comfortably on the ground. Spending time on the floor gets your body out of the seated position and you can cycle between a multitude of positions to vary the stimuli applied to your body. Best of all, you can do it while doing your usual activity: in front of the TV, playing with the kids, etc. The ultimate example of Simultaneous Training.
The human body has evolved to thrive on a wide variety of diets, matching the very diverse habitats our ancestors. The one thing it hasn’t evolved to cope with though, is anything processed.
Avoid ultra-processed foods
These are the foods so processed you can’t really tell which ingredients and additives have been used to produced them. They may be cheap and tasty but they’re bad for your health, in two ways. First, some types of processing can be directly harmful—hello trans fats. Second, these foods contain very little nutriments and take the place of other, more nutritious foods you could have instead. So, avoid.
Minimize processed foods
These foods are those where you can name the ingredients but they still went through some type of processing. Sometimes, it’s a lot, sometimes it’s little, but when processing is involved, it becomes difficult to know exactly what is ok and what’s not. Typical example: 100% fruit juices with no additives added. Some just got downgraded below diet sodas in the official healthy star ranking system in Australia. Why? Because while you may view them as “just slightly” processed, removing all the fibre from the fruit concentrates the sugar and the liquid form means we don’t digest them as we digest a whole piece of fruit, with all sorts of negative impacts. So, anything processed, best minimized.
Avoid “free” sugar
“Free sugars refer to monosaccharides (such as glucose) and disaccharides (sucrose or table sugar) added to foods and drinks by the manufacturer, cook or consumer. It also refers to sugars naturally present in honey, syrups, fruit juices and fruit juice concentrates.” (source)
Free sugar as an ingredient and all processed products containing it are best avoided, not minimized. Why? A little sugar isn’t catastrophic in terms of health impact. The human body is very resilient and a little of anything won’t have much consequences. The problem is that sugar is an addictive substance for our brains and we have a lot of trouble having just a little sugar. If you know yourself and can be disciplined, then congratulations, you can enjoy the occasional sugar hit without falling into the trap of too much. For the rest of us, a simple strategy is to just avoid it.
Minimize industrially-raised animal products (meat, fish, eggs, dairy, etc.)
Those animals have been raised in typically poor (or terrible) conditions and live lifestyle that are disconnected from the lives they evolved to live. Cows evolved to eat grass, not manufactured granules containing other animals’s remains. Chicken evolved to be outside most of the day, etc. The nutritional profile of these products is typically very poor at best or harmful at worst (antibiotics in your steak?). Pastured or grass-fed alternatives are best.
Don’t make grains the bulk of your calorie intake
The design of our body is as old as our specie, around 300.000 years ago. Agriculture was invented only around 10.000 years ago. Our current industrialized faring practices are not even 100 years old. Our body just didn’t adapt to eat a lot of agricultural products. Yet, they’re not all that bad, but they’re not the most nutritious for us and grains in particular haven’t the best nutritional profile. Best not to make them the bulk of your calories.
The early Homo Sapiens had a similar hunter-gatherer lifestyle but they adapted to a wide variety of diets depending on the different habitats they migrated to. Our body thrives on many different diets but one commonality is that most of these diets contained a high volume of fibers. This means, very much classically, prioritizing your fruits and vegetables intake with an eye towards the fiber-rich varieties.
Prioritize meals prepared at home from raw ingredients
Yes, it’s a lot more work, but it pays off. There are many strategies for doing it, from food prep to bulk cooking dinner with left overs for lunch to simply focusing on super quick and simple recipes.
Minimize the use of vegetal oils
These are processed products from modern agricultural crops. Not ideal. Instead favor fats from wild/pastured animals and from coconut, olive, avocado (whole)
Prioritize active modes of transport
Sedentary time is of course a big issue in our lifestyle today. If you can, favor active modes of transport like walking, running or cycling. Public transports is also an excellent choice as you can be active before and after. You’re also free to move much more freely in a train or bus than in your car seat, getting your daily time locked in a seated position even lower. Yes, it’s an effort and often a complication, but at least in large cities where you commute to the office, public transport options are often available and more and more buildings are equipped with showers, etc. Make your transport time count as training time.
Train yourself to mindfully endure small discomforts
Our bodies evolved to cope, on a daily basis, with various stimuli from our environment. Our ancestors were already ingenious but they still had to cope with the elements and were regularly cold, hot, wet, etc. They had to spend energy to compensate and so our natural instincts push us to avoid any sort of discomforts, just to save energy. That’s why we manufactured a world of comfort, removing any variation that would cause even small discomforts. But this has consequences on our biology. So next time it rains and you go home, consider getting a bit wet. If it’s too cold or hot outside, maybe refrain from using the aircon on some days.
A Foresighted lifestyle; healthier for you but also for the planet
You might have noticed throughout that list that every action listed is also beneficial to our natural environment.
You will automatically save energy and shift your purchasing demands towards the sustainable alternatives in every category of products.
This isn’t by chance: the healthiest lifestyle for humans is one where we live in harmony with the planet. It’s a win-win for everyone.